“Thank you for your service and sacrifice.”

A Holidays for Heroes message from a UMD student-athlete.

Our Holidays for Heroes program is an effort to collect handwritten messages on holiday cards to thank and recognize service members and veterans for their service and sacrifice.

This year, the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota teamed up with University of Minnesota Duluth student hockey teams to sign cards that will bring holiday joy to the men and women who keep, and have kept, us safe.

UMD Women’s Hockey captain Jalyn Elmes  signs Holidays for Heroes cards.

“It’s a really good way to reach out and show our appreciation to people that we may never get the chance to tell in person. It took less than an hour of our time,” says Jalyn Elmes, captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Women’s Hockey team.  Elmes has participated in Holidays for Heroes in the 2018 and 2019 holiday seasons.

Director of the local Red Cross, Dan Williams, has helped facilitate Holidays for Heroes for a number of years. Dan says his favorite part about this proactive effort is reminding service members and veterans that they’re cared about. “We’re not waiting for service members to raise their hand and say ‘I wish the community would show me how much they appreciate us.’”

UMD Men’s Hockey team thanks military veterans.

During the past four years, UMD student-athlete teams have signed around 4,000 cards. Football, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s hockey have joined these efforts. The signed cards will be distributed to local military service units and veterans clinics and homes.

Other upcoming activities include blood drives and humanitarian law training through our Red Cross Youth outreach. And getting involved Holidays for Heroes s as easy as bringing holiday cards to your local Red Cross chapter. We’ll do the rest!

Story by Caroline Nelson and photos by Dan Williams, American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military families and veterans.


Six thousand holiday cards, and counting, for our military heroes

Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross
Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross

At the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota, the Holiday Mail for Heroes program will distribute more than 6,000 cards to service members and veterans. As of this writing, cards will be going to all of the following groups:

  • 148th Fighter Wing
  • 114th Transportation Company
  • Silver Bay Veterans Home
  • Duluth Coast Guard Station
  • 94th Cavalry
  • 950th Transportation Engineers
  • 1st Combined Arms Battalion – Brainerd
  • VFW of Cook
  • Superior VA Clinic
  • MAC-V Duluth

The cards are appreciated by the units and their military members.  The 950th Transportation Engineers, who are based in Superior, WI, deployed this fall to Afghanistan. We mailed then 100 bundles of cards in Texas where they will have an early Christmas before deploying overseas in late December. Upon hearing the cards had shipped, their family readiness leader sent us this message: “This is wonderful! The soldiers will love them! Thank you so much for your support!”

Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross
Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross

Making cards can be extremely special.  The United Way of Greater Duluth did a card signing event at their family day event the week before Thanksgiving and sent in some incredible cards, as well as this message: “Thanks for the opportunity to spread holiday cheer to our Armed Forces and Veterans! What a wonderful program!” Some businesses really came through as well, including awesome staff from DeCare Dental in Gilbert, who made over 1,000 cards for the program.  Another outstanding supporter was Bent Paddle Brewery in Duluth, which contributed financially by paying for cards to be made as well as hosting card signing events at the brewery.

None of this would be possible without the commitment of volunteers and the generous spirit of people of all ages, from every corner of Northern Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin, who opened their hearts to send holiday greetings to our military heroes.

Story and photos by Dan Williams, Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota. To learn more getting involved with Red Cross, click here.

Holiday Mail For Heroes Undergoes Changes 

Story by Lanet Hane – American Red Cross Volunteer

Holiday Mail for Heroes cards from the 2013  writing campaign. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Holiday Mail for Heroes cards from the 2013 signing campaign. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program is an annual program focused on bringing a little more holiday thanks and cheer to veterans, those currently serving in the armed forces, and their families. Individuals send cards, with handwritten notes of holiday tidings and thanks, to the Red Cross. The Red Cross distributes the cards to those who will most appreciate them during the holiday season. Veteran’s hospitals, Veteran’s homes, and families of currently deployed personnel are frequent recipients of Holiday Mail for Heroes holiday cards.

For the 2014 holiday season, the Red Cross is changing the format of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program to better serve military personnel as well as make effective use of donor resources. Rather than send all cards to a centralized national location, as has been done in the past, the Red Cross is empowering individual Red Cross chapters to collect cards from their own communities. Mike Booth, the Services to Armed Forces Director at the American Red Cross, says this new decentralized approach to the program will continue to be effective, but will reduce the number of financial and human resources.

Mike also emphasizes the fact that this program is designed not only for active military members. While Holiday Mail for Heroes does provide cards for those in active service, the program has a much wider scope. The cards contributed by community members may go to any number of people connected to the military.

Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at Neilson Place, Bemidji, MN, November 3, 2014.
Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at Neilson Place, Bemidji, MN, November 3, 2014. Photo credit: Linda Barkley/American Red Cross

Because the program is not limited to currently active military personnel, it also provides a unique opportunity for people to partner with the Red Cross in remembering veterans.  Many veterans receiving holiday cards are patients in VA hospitals or residents at State Veteran’s Homes, and have little contact with friends or family. Holiday Mail for Heroes connects these veterans with individuals who have taken the time and care to personalize a holiday card and send it to them in thanks for their sacrifice.

And, while a holiday card may seem a small triviality, they are anything but trivial to those who receive them. “This program continues to hold great value,” says Mike. “The veterans, wounded warriors, and military families who receive these tokens appreciate them in ways that might surprise many of us. For some of these people, one of these cards can really make their day.”

If you plan to participate in this program, please review program guidelines for creating and sending your cards. To ensure card delivery in time for the holidays, the local Red Cross office must receive cards no later than Friday, December 5.

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